It was a most curious thing because it caught everyone by surprise — including City Hall.
That being, of course, the sudden resignation last December of Red Deer’s top Mountie, Supt. Warren Dosko.
It’s fair to say that when the top police officer in any community leaves, it’s generally known well in advance. In part that’s so the search can begin as soon as possible for a replacement.
In Red Deer, city council has stood behind the RCMP force, and recently reasserted that it wanted to continue with an RCMP contract rather than establishing its own police force.
But Dosko apparently did not give more than a few days notice he was departing. The public explanation was simply that Dosko was eligible for retirement. And there were personal reasons, which remain personal.
Mayor Tara Veer said at the time: “We knew this day would eventually come.” But still, the mayor couldn’t offer much of an explanation as to why Dosko left so abruptly.
One day you wake up realizing you can retire if you want. You look out the window at another encroaching Alberta winter and after almost three decades in the trenches of a very tough job, you say, “I’m done.”
I don’t know if that’s how it unfolded for Dosko, but he certainly wasn’t forced out. The city was happy with him and wished him the best.
When his relatively smooth three-year tenure in Red Deer came to an end, local media tried, but he was unavailable for one last comment.
Fast forward to today and a new boss cop is finally arriving to replace Dosko. Announced last week, RCMP Insp. Scott Tod, 51, is a 25-year RCMP veteran. He will take over one of Alberta’s largest RCMP detachments.
His tenure may be a little rougher than Dosko’s.
I say that because the city is about to introduce a fundamental change in the way policing occurs in Red Deer.
Essentially the policing model in Red Deer is going to see uniformed, armed officers spending less time on lesser matters and more time on more serious, urgent matters.
Say you go out in the morning to your truck, and you find it has a smashed window and it’s been rifled through. Or you come home to find someone has broken into your garage and emptied your freezer. Or your fence has been spray-painted by vandals.
You are a victim. You call police. But they don’t come. That’s because your call may fall into a certain category that won’t see an armed officer coming to your door to investigate.
Like it or not, this is not an urgent situation. Your complaint is just part of the 60 per cent of police calls to Red Deer RCMP that are deemed as Priority 3 (non-urgent) calls.
Over the past few years, Red Deer has earned a reputation for having high and severe crime, in particular murders and robberies.
Dosko was involved in seeing the city prioritize calls so that the really bad stuff would get dealt with differently than lesser evils. Using police resources efficiently and effectively was the pitch.
So some residents are going to see a city employee, rather than a police officer, respond, perhaps even just by phone, to their complaints.
Here’s the at-hand task for the new man on the job: Insp. Tod — listen to the community.
The city will roll out its priority calls system as an 18-month pilot project first, sometime this year. Once it does begin, the community will react.
With 60 per cent of those reporting crime coming to realize they may only see an “unarmed response” to their complaints, Tod has his work cut out for him.
Mary-Ann Barr is Advocate assistant city editor. She can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at 403-314-4332.